United States: New laws attack unions, women’s right to choose

April 3, 2011
A protest in Ohio against the anti-union bill.

The bad news for Ohio’s 350,000 public workers is that a new law bans them from striking — the good news is at least they will no longer risk jail for doing so.

A March 30 Reuters article said: “Ohio’s legislature on Wednesday passed a Republican measure to curb the collective bargaining rights of about 350,000 state employees, and Governor John Kasich said he will sign it into law.”

The new law will ban unions from striking in support of public workers and limit workers’ ability to collectively bargain.

Reuters said: “While Wisconsin has gained more national attention, Ohio is far more important to unions. It has the sixth largest number of public sector union members among all the 50 U.S. states, twice the number of Wisconsin [where an anti-union bill has been signed into law].

“With many auto and steel and manufacturing plants, Ohio is also a union bellwether.”

So far, there have not been the large-scale protests against the attack on workers’ rights in Ohio as has occurred in Wisconsin.

The Huffington Post spoke to Ohio worker Leo Geiger on March 30.

The article described Geiger as “a Republican who works as a sewer inspector for the city of Dayton and didn’t attend protests because he couldn’t take the time off”.

Geiger said he was “deathly afraid that this is going to affect me, my family and the entire state of Ohio in an incredibly negative way”.

Geiger said he thought the bill was more about “political payback” than balancing the budget.

Geiger said: “I find this to be loathsome. I find this to be disrespectful to Ohioans and disrespectful to the process of Democracy.”

The battle over budgets in the US is playing out at the national as well as the state level.

The largest spending cuts in US history are closer to being passed as congressional Democrats and Republicans reached a tentative agreement March 30.

The New York Times said on March 30: “Though Republicans and Democrats continued to trade jabs in public, staffers from both parties began filling in the blanks on a possible agreement that would cut roughly [US]$33 billion in spending during the current fiscal year, which ends September 30.”

US vice-president Joe Biden said on March 30: “There is no reason why, with all that’s going on in the world and the state of the economy, we can’t reach an agreement and avoid a government shutdown … The bottom line is, we are working off the same number now.”

A “stop-gap” budget was passed by Congress on March 17, extending the deadline for approval of the federal budget until April 8.

Control of the House of Representatives has allowed Republicans to use the threat of government shutdown to demand historic cuts.

Republicans initially proposed slashing $60 billion from the budget with cuts proposed for a suite of federal programs and services.

Job training, the US Environment Protection Agency and community health centers topped the cost cutting list.

The March 29 NYT said Republican budget demands included “the goal of unraveling the vast array of environmental regulations promulgated by the E.P.A. and other government agencies, which Republicans insist overburdens businesses, particularly the ones that take on carbon emissions”.

There are also proposals to cut government funds to organisations such as Planned Parenthood, which provide gynecological health care, family planning and access to abortions.

The proposed cuts to family planning in the federal budget are indicative of a broader trend.

Socialistworker.org said in a March 30 editorial: “A staggering 351 abortion-related bills are moving through state legislatures this year. More than half of states have at least one pending.

“This barrage, led by Republicans, but abetted by Democrats, is calculated to further restrict abortion rights — to the point that, while legal in name, an ever-smaller portion of women will actually be able to obtain a legal abortion.”

The South Dakota state legislature has led the attack on women’s reproductive rights by passing into law mandatory counselling for women seeking abortions.

The law was signed by South Dakota’s Republican governor Dennis Daugaard on March 29.

Women are now also required to wait three days from when they first attend an abortion clinic before the procedure can be legally carried out.

The NYT said: “[Many] states require counseling from doctors or other clinic staff members before an abortion to cover topics like health risks. What makes the new South Dakota law different is that the mandated counseling will come from people whose central qualification is that they are opposed to abortion.”

Socialistworker.org said that “the dire consequences for women's lives and health are starting to spur some into action — showing the potential for laying the groundwork for a new fight for abortion rights”.

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